|Michigan State dreams to end season in Motor City|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 15 October 2008 13:44|
Coach Tom Izzo said playing in college basketball's signature event a fifth time would be even more special this season because it will be at Ford Field in Detroit.
``Yeah, I dream about it,'' Izzo acknowledged Wednesday at media day. ``But I've been through enough that I understand how good you have to be and how lucky you have to be.''
Izzo insisted his greatest day as a coach wasn't when the Spartans won the national championship in 2000, but when they won the regional final a week before in front of their fans at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Playing for a title in the Motor City would top that.
``This gives you a chance to have a real big party,'' Izzo said. ``I don't want our guys thinking about the Final Four, but I hope every one them goes to sleep every night and dreams about it.''
nts him from going to bed as soon as he'd like.
``I get so excited about it, sometimes I can't go to sleep, honestly,'' Lucas said. ``Me and the fellas get talking about it, sometimes for hours.''
Michigan State seems to have a shot at making its dreams a reality, returning 10 players with experience and adding three highly touted freshmen.
Preseason magazines have tabbed the Spartans as a top 10 team - as The Associated Press' preseason poll might next month - and projected them to compete with Purdue for the Big Ten title.
``I think we'll be able to handle those expectations,'' Izzo said. ``I don't think there's any question this will be one of our most athletic teams. We'll also have depth and experience with some guys coming who have started coming off the bench.''
The lightning-quick Lucas will likely start at point guard and will be joined in the starting lineup by forwards Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton.
Freshman Delvon Roe, if his surgically repaired knees hold up, will compete with Marquise Gray for the final spot in the frontcourt. Chris Allen and Travis Walton probably will vie for the backcourt opening.
Freshman forward Draymond Green, who lost about 25 pounds in the offseason, and guard Korie Lucious, who is almost as fast as Lucas, will provide depth as should Durrell Summers.
g professionally in Europe, are the only ones missing from last year's team.
``It's impressive how deep we are,'' Morgan said.
The Spartans are banking on boosting their chances this season by being more focused than they were last year when they fell short of high expectations with a solid season, winning 27 games and advancing to the round of 16 for the seventh time in 11 years.
They worked out together more than they had in recent years, occasionally slept overnight at times in oversized recliners in the locker room and created a bond with tightly cropped haircuts.
Allen cut off the braids he had been sporting since the ninth grade, becoming the last player to conform about three weeks ago.
``I had to do some soul-searching for that one,'' Allen said. ``I talked to my mom and she said, `It's time for a change,' so I cut them off the next day.
``The guys were surprised because they didn't think I was going to cut my hair. They went crazy when I came into the weight room one day with a fade.''
Michigan State will have to use its chemistry, depth and talent to endure a tough schedule, including perhaps one of the most challenging week a college basketball team has ever had.
The Spartans will play Maryland on Thanksgiving, then will face Gonzaga or Oklahoma State and potentially Tennessee or Georgetown in a three-game, four-day tournament.
will match up with North Carolina - who will likely be the No. 1 team in the preseason poll - at Ford Field in Detroit.
``It's going to be crazy and fun to play during that stretch,'' Lucas said.
Playing topflight competition has become the norm for Izzo.
Since advancing to their first of 11 straight NCAA tournaments in 1998, the Spartans have played 114 ranked opponents to tie North Carolina for the most such games.
When Kansas visits the Breslin Center in January, 13 of the last 14 national champions will have played at Michigan State. The only one missing is Maryland, who will play the Spartans this season for the third time on a neutral site since 2003.
Michigan State is hoping the schedule helps it win a Big Ten title for the first time since 2001 before making an NCAA tournament run that ends in Detroit.
``The schedule is even tougher than I thought it would be when I made it,'' Izzo said. ``I thought North Carolina would lose some players and I didn't know Georgetown would be in the Orlando tournament.
``But I think it's right for this team. We're going to understand that we're not quite as good as everybody picked us, or we are as good or we're a little better. We'll know that earlier in the year to regroup or build from it.''